Monday, 27 November 2017

The coalitions podcast: chaos in Berlin, calm in Bonn

Germany's political future is now uncertain after 'Jamaica' coalition talks collapsed. Meanwhile, the global climate coalition is holding strong after a summit in Bonn.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Berlin: the uncapital


People often use 'Berlin' as shorthand for a powerful Germany. But in reality this is not a power center, economically or politically. And many people like it that way. 

I've been in Bonn, Germany the past two weeks, covering the UN climate talks. It's my first time in the former West German capital, and it's been a very eye-opening experience. 

One of my clients is Deutsche Welle, Germany's public international broadcaster (roughly the equivalent of the BBC World Service). I work for them in their Brussels and Berlin offices, but their headquarters are in Bonn. So these weeks were an opportunity to finally meet many of my colleagues in person for the first time. 

When I tell people outside Germany that DW's headquarters is in Bonn, and Berlin has a much smaller satellite office, they're surprised. "Why wouldn't they be based in Berlin?" they ask. In fact, DW's situation is not unusual. Very few German media companies are based in Berlin. The TV stations and national papers are often based in Hamburg or Cologne, maintaining only small 'Berlin bureaus'.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Today's divides aren't between states, they're across them


In Europe and America, today's urban educated elites have more in common with their counterparts in other countries than their own compatriots. It is resulting in a new type of international nationalism.

I was in Belgrade last week moderating at the Belgrade Security Forum, an annual policy dialogue about Balkan and European issues. 

During a discussion on challenging inequality, one of the panelists made a point that stuck with me. Responding to a comment from former Greek prime minister George Papandreaou about the uneven benefits of globalization, Hakan Altinay from the Global Civics Academy noted that the benefits are being felt by a certain class in each country, and that is bringing them closer together across borders while they drift ever-further apart from their countrymen. 

People working in and around the European Union institutions in Brussels are often accused of living in a bubble, forming an international echo chamber in which they have more in common with each other than with people back home in their own countries. But in fact, this is a phenomenon that is linking national capitals across Europe - and it has little connection to the EU. The bubble isn't just in Brussels. It is spread across Europe's cities.

A few days later, I heard a very similar description of the situation in the US on NBC's Meet the Press, America's main public affairs program. During a 'data download' segment, host Chuck Todd described how NBC News had crunched the numbers. Despite the caricature of America being divided between red and blue states, the divide is really between red and blue people - and that split defies geography.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Three different Berlins

My journey from Sch├Âneberg to Neuk├Âlln to Prenzlauerberg.

Ever since going freelance in March of 2015, I’ve lived an itinerant life. In addition to keeping apartments in Brussels and Berlin and traveling between them, I’ve also gone traveling in the Southern hemisphere over the winters.

It’s been a fantastic and enriching experience, but today I’m reining it in. I’m on the train from Berlin to Brussels now, having given up my Berlin apartment. The back-and-forth was just getting too exhausting - I had to pick one city or the other. Professionally, that city has to be Brussels - at least for the moment. But that’s a subject for another blog entry.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The future of Europe - Macron vs. Lindner

This week, Emmanuel Macron threw down the gauntlet for his vision of a stronger, more federal European Union. But his bold words were tempered by the election result in Germany two days earlier. And just a few days later, violence in Catalonia further undermined his vision of European unity.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

The speeches podcast: May in Florence, Trump at UNGA

It's a week of speeches - Theresa May asking for extra Brexit time in Florence, Donald Trump ushering in the dog-eat-dog era at the UN, and Emmanuel Macron spelling out his vision of EU reform.